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Courts Malaysia re-strategises its marketing plans as GST kicks in

With the GST implementation kicking in earlier this year in Malaysia and consumers openly sharing their disdain on the move, brands with a presence in the country had to scramble to re-strategise their marketing plans.

Mondelēz Malaysia declared it would not increase the prices of products. The company implemented a 5.7% cut on its price list to maintain the price that it gives to retail partners and distributors.

Meanwhile Fraser and Neave decided to pass on all savings from the GST implementation to its distributors and trade customers in adherence of the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act.

Courts Malaysia, which has been in the Malaysia market for more than 28 years, also realised it wouldn’t be long before it would start to feel the pinch.

Bee Yin Low, marketing director of Courts Malaysia, told A+M that in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore affordability is a vital factor when making the last step to purchase. The need to drive home the message that it was still an affordable brand was particularly necessary this year in Malaysia because of the implementation of the GST.

“When it comes to retail, especially in a time of muted consumer sentiment, pricing will always be a differentiator,” Low said. She added that already, the brand saw customers starting to tighten their purse strings and become more careful with their spending.

Courts knew its relationship with the Malaysian home makers had to be revisited.

Courts Malaysia decided to launch a nationwide brand campaign called “Senang Sahaja, Courts Ada” where it invested in excess of RM20 million for a new look and a range of marketing initiatives. Through the campaign, Courts wanted to push the ideals of affordability and value while once again emotionally connecting back with consumers.

“We wanted to push forward that it is more than just a price point that makes us special and connect with our customers in a down-to-earth way,” said Low, who has been in the role for two years.

Coming from an advertising background of more than 18 years, and having worked in companies such as M&C Saatchi Malaysia and Lowe & Partners, Low was adamant that when creating a good campaign, especially in retail, every piece of communication needed to achieve results almost instantaneously.

“That’s the nature of the retail business. If the desired result is not achieved, the strategy, execution and implementation has to be reviewed or revised. This happens on a weekly basis and, at times, even every other day during crucial business periods,” Low said.

With this goal in mind, Low and her team embarked on a market survey where it discovered the local sentiment was always about “Hidup Senang”, which means living an easy, stress free life.

Courts Malaysia decided to leverage this and come up with the brand proposition “Senang Sahaja, Courts Ada” – one the company felt would humanise the Courts brand. It wanted to assure Malaysians that after 28 years of turning their houses into homes, Courts was still very much in touch with what is now most important to them.

Choosing the right brand ambassadors

Some may think being a brand that is relatable to many customer demographics from multi-generational families to graduates, newly-weds and new families may lead to a variety of options for any brand looking to appoint a brand ambassador. Low, however, explained this led to the brand nit-picking and choosing a brand ambassador that could resonate positively and connect with all Malaysians.

For the ambassador role, Courts finally decided on Malaysian stand-up comedian Harith Iskander.

“He is known as the godfather of Malaysian comedy and imbues our brand promise and shopping experience with his appealing humour. As a family man himself, he shops at Courts for his home and lifestyle needs. He even shared with us that he spent his first pay cheque in Courts, buying an iron for his mother. You can’t get more authentic than that,” Low said.

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She added that as a marketer, it was essential to be sensitive to the ever-evolving consumer trends and behaviour. That’s why Low makes it her duty to always listen and engage with customers, as well as the people on the ground – the front liners. They are, after all, the folks that know the brand best, she added.

What’s next?

Currently the brand is also making a bigger push on its digital side. Quoting PayPal, Low said that 73% of Malaysians now shop online at least once a month. Nearly 56% of them have spent over RM200 online in the past three months. She added the size of Malaysia’s e-commerce to be worth nearly RM6 billion by 2015 – largely fuelled by the increased usage of smartphones.

Keeping this in mind, the brand is relaunching its Courts website to deliver a multi-channel shopping experience for customers. The site is set to be up and running by the end of the year. A comprehensive online store will also be rolled out, together with e-kiosks and click and collect counters in-store, for a full multi-channel experience in phase two of the launch.

So what is her philosophy as a marketer?

“Perseverance is necessary. And at the end of the day a brand must be relevant in a customer’s life. Marketing is the key to creating that relevance – ensuring the delivery of a consistent brand message that continuously builds on the brand proposition. This cycle is repeated to adapt to our customers’ ever-evolving lifestyles,” Low said.

She added that at the end of the day marketing plays a big role in ensuring that a brand is seen as credible and that is exactly what makes the role exciting and challenging.

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